A few years ago, my high school history teacher asked my class who founded America.
My immediate answer was Christopher Columbus because we were always taught Columbus discovered America. Throughout my childhood, teachers and commercials recited the famous poem about his voyage.
“In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue … ”
Remembering this poem, I thought to myself, it had to be Columbus. It must be.
Well, I was wrong. Columbus was not the one to discover America. The sole name of this continent screams someone else’s name – Amerigo Vespuci.
Despite this, every 2nd Monday of October we celebrate the man who supposedly founded America: Columbus. This year, Columbus day fell on Oct. 14, about two weeks ago. People used this day off to commemorate Columbus’ landing in the Americas in 1492 by hosting parades and small get togethers.
The day sounds all happy and dandy. In reality though, there are many people who oppose this national holiday because they can’t wrap their heads around why we have a day to celebrate Columbus when there’s so many more prevalent people to celebrate.
I agree, there are many other people who I believe deserve a national day to celebrate their accomplishments, but that doesn’t change the fact that Columbus day exists. Instead of complaining about Columbus being a terrible person based off of today’s society’s standards, we should look at his life from his time period’s perspective.
To do this, we have to first look at why people believe he isn’t worthy of a national holiday.
For starters, he wasn’t the first person to land on America’s soil. I hate to burst your bubble, but this controversy has been researched again and again by historians. Leif Erikson and other vikings were here before Columbus, as well as the Native Americans who resided here before Columbus’ takeover.
In addition to this, the land Columbus is so well known for founding wasn’t even named after him. America was named after Vespucci, an Italian explorer who came across America in the early 1500s. This was because, unlike Columbus, he realized the continent he was exploring was not Asia but in fact a new continent in the western hemisphere.
These reasons are not why Columbus receives hate though. He is despised because he not only personally enslaved and killed the natives, but his discovery led to European colonization of America, resulting in the death of even more Native Americans.
Despite all of this, Columbus proved to the people of his time that the world wasn’t flat. He took the risk of falling off the earth to his death in order to prove that everyone was wrong, the earth wasn’t flat and there was more to be discovered.
I don’t think this reconciles his actions ,but you have to look at his actions in the perspective of his time period. He landed on a strange land with people he’s never met before. They did what was the custom of that time – fight until the land was theirs.
There are many other humans out there achieving and discovering things no one thought was possible just like Columbus.
On Oct. 10, Eliud Kipchoge ran a sub two-hour marathon. This was unheard of and unachievable two years ago, even just two weeks ago, it was a crazy idea. But Eliud did it. He broke the barrier between dreams and reality and showed people it was possible.
I think there is something to learn in this as well as Columbus’ actions; just because someone hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean it is impossible. That is why I think we should still celebrate Columbus day. Not because of the thousands of Native Americans who were killed but because of the man who took something impossible and made it possible.
After finishing his sub two-hour marathon, Eliud stated, “no human is limited.”
So, go out into the world and discover. Do something unheard of. Do something you never thought was possible. Because there’s always a first for everything and you could be the person to prove everyone wrong.